The Sweet Spot for Promotions

When is the best time to promote an employee? 

I like to think that there's a sweet spot. The employee has outgrown their current position, but their next role will challenge them in new ways. In the book Atomic Habits, author James Clear highlights a similar concept:

"The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right."

It's a manager's job to guide their employees from role to role by giving them the right opportunities and coaching them along the way. 

In that way, the employee needs to have enough exposure to some of the new role's responsibilities and shown they're ready and capable for the challenge. For instance, before promoting a Junior Designer to Designer, they should have opportunities to present their work if that's an expectation of the new role. I'm not suggesting they lead a high-stakes presentation. Instead, maybe they walk through design revisions or take on a portion of a meeting.

Promotions are most successful when the employee feels equipped for the next step, their manager is confident in their ability to take it on, and their co-workers are beginning to see them in the new role.

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Related: Building Teams with TLC